The National Football League has one less concussion-lawsuit plaintiff to worry about.
Alex Karras, a former lineman for the Detroit Lions who had a second career as a pretty good actor, died Wednesday in Los Angeles, according to The New York Times.
According to a statement from his family Karras, 77, had stomach cancer, heart disease, kidney disease and what has become the signature disease of former NFL players: dementia. That didn’t make for a pleasant end of his life.
In fact, Karras was one of more than 3,500 ex-football players who have filed suit against the NFL, alleging that they sustained long-term brain damage from the concussions and blows to the head they sustained while playing.
I recall one of the ex-players who is suing, I can’t remember which one, saying that the NFL will just stall the litigation so that they players, who are getting on in age, will die off. And unfortunately, this is what happened with Karras.
According to his now-widow, actress Susan Clark, more than a dozen years ago Karras started to exhibit signs of dementia, which she attributed to the head injuries he got while playing, according to ABC News. It got so bad that Karras couldn’t drive anymore. He couldn’t even recall recipes for the Greek and Italian and Greek food he used to cook, Clark said.
Karras may have appeared to be a big lug, but he was a smart guy, the son of a doctor and a nurse. He was also a maverick who often butted heads with management of the Lions, as well as then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Karras was suspended by Rozelle in 1963 for making small bets on games, a charge that the player thought was absurd.
After football, Karras became a film and TV actor, with success. He was particularly funny and memorable as the dumb outlaw Mongo in Mel Brooks parody of Westerns, “Blazing Saddles.” He had a great line: “Mongo only pawn in game of life.”
As he got older, Karras developed dementia, which has been linked to blows to the head. So he became one of many ex-NFL stars who joined in the concussion lawsuits.